A year ago tomorrow, Colonel Richardson High’s baseball team won the Class 1A state championship.
Colonel head coach Dan Mangum stepped down after last season and was replaced by assistant Ryan Blanchfield, who was hoping to guide the Colonels to a title defense this year. That hope, of course, was eliminated when the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association canceled the spring seasons April 27 because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.
With one season lost, Blanchfield hoped COVID-19’s impact may have eased enough for his Caroline Post 29 American Legion baseball team to take the field this summer. But those hopes, too, were quashed in early April when Mike Riston, chairman of the Department of the Maryland American Legion Baseball Committee, announced the 2020 senior and junior American Legion baseball state and regional tournaments had been canceled.
“I mean, I totally get it,” Blanchfield said of the health and safety reasons for not having a season. “But it’s just disappointing. A year without baseball? Man. You don’t realize how good you have it until it’s taken away from you.”
Like Blanchfield, Albert Pritchett, head coach for a high school (Easton) and Legion team (Talbot Post 70/77,) understands why seasons have been canceled, but also knows the disappointment.
“Looking at this through the players’ viewpoint, this is the most disappointing, frustrating season I can imagine for the players.” Pritchett said. “The closing of the schools, the working from home, the losing out on graduation. The seniors are really who I feel the strongest for as far as this. Because you can’t recapture any of these moments. These kids have worked since they were T-ball age, at all sorts of levels to have the journey of high school sports at various success levels. And completely out of their control, it’s all gone.
“I do think the long drumbeat of canceling everything, postponing everything, I think is very disappointing,” Pritchett continued. “And I’m sure it weighs on all these players, and coaches and umpires, and everybody that takes great pride in coaching and putting these leagues on. And not just baseball. All the sports.”
In late March it was announced the American Legion World Series, scheduled for Shelby, N.C., would be canceled along with the eight regional tournaments. Then came the state’s message on April 7.
The Eastern Shore League for American Legion baseball is divided into two divisions, with Caroline, Talbot and Kent-Queen Anne’s County in the North, and Dorchester, Ocean City, Princess Anne and Wicomico County in the South.
It was noted within the state’s message that “Should local teams decide to go forward with independent seasons this summer, if restrictions are lifted in time, they are urged to purchase separate liability insurance from a carrier of their choosing. They must also not say they are American Legion Baseball teams, due to liability concerns.”
But in Gov. Larry Hogan’s three-phase plan for re-opening the state, there is no mention of youth sports restarting. Phase one allows for boating, golfing, fishing, tennis, outdoor fitness and gym classes. Phase two references raising the cap on social gatherings, including indoor gyms. And phase three allows for larger gatherings. But nowhere is there a specific mention of youth sports.
“The disappointment level is high,” Pritchett said of the canceled seasons. “No high school. No legion.
“I am sure the baseball people, my fellow coaches and people that are involved, as soon as we are safely allowed to play baseball, we are looking forward to playing baseball,” Pritchett added. “Whenever that day comes.”